Fat Pages With Wheels
Monday, March 31, 1997 by Dave Winer.
Lots of stuff going on, not much time to write today, but I wanted to point people at the next revision of the Fat Pages format.
Learning a lot here. Because a bit of software is now a web page, a collection of software becomes a website, or a tour thru several sites.
A page can contain an outline or a table of data, not just bits of program code.
And thru menu sharing, we can embed menus that show up in the web browser's menu bar. So the format can handle platform-specific data types. That's an important requirement.
The web browser provides a familliar and friendly interface. Unlike other new software distribution mechanisms, this one builds on what's already been accomplished in web authoring, both in the power of the tools and in the depth of knowledge in the authoring world.
And... we have a logo! Thanks to Maurice Rickard for doing the design, and thanks to everyone else for contributing their creativity and hard work. Pointers on the Fat Pages site.
We still have to work on data encoding formats. Base64? Binhex? Or a C string constant? I like the last approach the best, it's simple and relatively readable for human beings.
A pointer mechanism, allowing indirection, is a good idea that's been suggested. It's important to look at scaling the format for large stuff, embedded objects that are larger than most GIFs you see around the web.
We have to allow for multiple processors on each machine. The format should allow the content to say which is the preferred app for handling the data. We'll implement a router that works on the Mac platform.
We're still not at the RFC stage. I want to move quickly, and am willing to iron out differences with others later. And in the meantime I'm being responsive to people's suggestions. It's time to move quickly, I think, so that's what I'm doing.
Endorsements mean a lot. Here's what John Gillmore, email@example.com, said:
"Thanks for trying to take on the 'easy installation' problem. The out of box experience is very important -- and usually quite painful.
"Many times it's the OS that forces this (you have to stick things in particular places, reboot, have special permission, etc), but it is also frequently just poor design of the application's installer. Even the standard MacOS Installer makes you switch floppies more times than necessary, for no reason I could ever discern. You even have to stick in the first floppy at the end, again!
"Whatever you can do to improve this will be a big deal. Make sure your first attempt is very extensible though; you will discover numerous things to fix as the first hundred companies use it, and even more things you'll kick yourself over as the first thousand do. Try to get some real complicated apps early -- I don't use a Mac enough to point an obvious one out, but maybe something like AutoCAD."
People are liking the idea. I think it's got wheels!
PS: People on the Frontier-talk list figured out how to make Fat Pages work with Netscape too. OK! It's cooool...